For many, the acts depicted in 50 Shades of Grey may look a little bit like assault.
The law on consensual violence is cobbled together from a small pool of legal cases.
The leading case being R v Brown which is a case most law students could tell you the facts of even years after graduating, so remarkable are they.
The case concerned sadomasochism between a group of men who consensually and enthusiastically engaged in acts of violence against each other – for sexual pleasure. It had gone on for ten years and they were discovered by the Police at a location in Frankwell, Shrewsbury, a stones throw away from our Welsh Bridge office by chance. All involved were arrested and subsequently stood trial charged with offences of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, malicious wounding and inflicting grievous bodily.
At trial the defendants attempted to rely upon consent as a defence to the charges.
The Court ruled that consent was no defence to the offences committed and this decision was upheld in the House of Lords.
The judgment has received criticism from many because, it is thought, if the facts had been different and involved heterosexual sadomasochistic activity it would have been found lawful.
The parameters of the law are very rarely tested, given that consenting and willing participants are hardly going to complain to police and press charges. However, those of us feeling inspired following a trip to the cinema should proceed with caution!